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Posted by my friend and colleague, Laurie Burke. Don’t fall for a scam like this!

Kitchen Design Notes

It’s a typical scenario: the phone rings and on the other end is an appointment setter announcing she represents a home improvement company working in your area. She asks you a few questions and sure enough, her company can have a salesman come out to meet with you about your project.

The happened to my elderly mother, who had a visit from the salesperson who spent two hours in her house for a high pressure sales call for a patio enclosure. It seems the older one gets the more the phone rings with cold-callers wanting to sell you something!

Fortunately she didn’t sign a contract but unfortunately not before he got her ID and Social Security number to check her credit for instant approval.

With a swift search I found out this is a slick operation that prays upon unsuspecting elderly people. He left no business card, no written estimate…

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If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard someone complain about a contractor who hasn’t done the job right, or hasn’t scheduled enough time for the job, or walked off the job in the middle never to be heard from again, leaving a mess in his wake, or who has taken so long to get the job done that an important deadline has been missed, etc., I’d be a wealthy woman.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is that not only are there a lot of bad contractors our there, but the average contractor doesn’t give a rat’s patoot about you, Jane or Joe Homeowner.

Sure, some are better at business than others and do recognize the importance of taking good care of their customers no matter who they are, and there are in fact some really fabulous ones out there – but the reality is that every single one of them is going to go on to their next job when finished with yours, while you are probably only going refinish your floor or redo your bathroom or put on an addition once in your whole life, and chances are you’ll forget who they are anyways the next time you do decide to do something to your house.

You hear endless horror stories about contractors and remodeling, too, because the average homeowner simply doesn’t know what to look for or how to hire one and ensure the job gets done right, on time, and on budget.  Most people simply have no clue about what they don’t know until they find themselves in the middle of a big, expensive mess.

Most people also go about a remodeling project backwards, by hiring a contractor first, and then letting the contractor essentially end up dictating how the job gets done, only giving him very vague instructions.  If you do that, you will end up with problems, and not with what you want, because it is absolutely essential to have the design completely finished and fully spec-ed out in every tiny detail down to the door stops, cabinet hinges, and edge trim on the countertops before you go out to bid.  If you don’t, you won’t even be able to fairly compare bids because each contractor will be making it all up in his own head as he goes along since you haven’t specified everything.  Incomplete design will always lead to cost overruns and a job taking far longer than you expected even if you hire the best contractor in town.

It’s not really a personal failing if you find yourself in this kind of position; you just haven’t had any reason to know before, and we are simply not all experts in everything – nor should we be.  This is simply not your area of specialization.

Interior designers, however, not only do specialize in this stuff, living, eating, sleeping, and breathing it for decades on end, but we also get the design finished down to the last detail before putting it out to bid so that you can compare bids fairly.  We know every detail that has to be planned.

We also maintain solid working relationships with usually several top flight general contractors – and most importantly, those are ongoing relationships. This breeds loyalty as it does in any field in which collaboration and partnership are part of getting the job done successfully.

We do know how to assess who is good and who is not, and how to level the playing field in the world of obtaining bids.  We have backups we can call in quickly if an insurmountable problem does arise with one contractor during a job, and that does happen sometimes, even with the best of them and the best-planned projects.  We know which contractors are best for which types of job, and only refer ones who we know are definitely committed to excellence and customer satisfaction.

We are able to realize economies in working with a contractor that you can’t because of the working relationship one develops when doing multiple projects together, and because of having already-shared common professional ground and knowledge.  When you work with someone regularly, and you share a professional knowledge base, you learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses, how they think, etc., and that ends up saving time, which saves you the client money – oftentimes a lot of money.

These ongoing working relationships also help us during the design process.  We can get feedback from the contractor about ways to do things that might save money well before the design is finalized and the work started.  The most successful projects that involve construction actually start off with the designer and contractor collaborating right from the beginning.  It is always, always, always cheaper for you-the-client to change a design on paper before starting construction (or purchasing) than once things are underway.

But most importantly in some ways, and a big part of why these relationships matter to you the client, is that contractor knows that if he doesn’t get the job done right and take good care of the designer’s client, and absolutely get that work done in time for her to put her house back together for holiday visitors if that’s what is promised, the designer is simply not likely to call on him again for her next job.

And the designer will have a next job for him, while you simply probably won’t.

Which means, practically speaking, that he’ll take her call even if he might not take yours.  He’ll be more likely pull guys off another job to finish yours if necessary where he might not without the designer being part of the equation.  He’ll simply take better care of you in every way since he’s probably a better businessperson to start with than the one you might find on your own, but also because he definitely wants to keep that designer happy so she will bring him her next project.

A good designer and contractor combination will also be able to tell you up front if the job can be done in the time frame you have in mind or if you’re dreaming and need to come back into the land of reality – before you even tear your house apart and start, or break ground on a new one.

And a good designer will know to warn you about things a contractor might not – like how you need to plan on a certain level of cost and time overruns, and build them into your plans and budget.

These overruns do still happen even with the best design and best contractors, because there are many things that can crop up in the course of even the best-planned project that no one on earth could ever foresee, but you simply minimize the chances of them (and the extent), and certainly minimize the likelihood of the most predictable problems cropping up when you work with an experienced designer who already has established trade relationships.

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If you’re ready to get going on that remodel or new house that you’ve been thinking about for so long, and want to make creating your dream home or room as easy on yourself as possible, saving yourself both time, money, and aggravation with one stop shopping, freeing you up to take care of other more important things in your life even while your project progresses, please contact me by clicking on the “Contact” tab above.  I look forward to working with you!

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This is a great report about a journalist in Chile who undertook living as a disabled person for two weeks.  Even if you don’t understand a word of Spanish, the videos of his experiences will speak for themselves about the types of obstacles disabled people face every day in both their homes and in public. We are fortunate in the US that public spaces are generally much more accessible than in Chile, but the same cannot be said about our housing stock. As our population ages, more and more people will find themselves disabled to some extent and start to face these kinds of issues.

Contact me today if you’re ready to evaluate your own home for accessibility as you and your loved ones age or cope with disabling illness, and to make necessary changes to enable greater independence for longer.

Universal/accessible design just makes sense – for everyone.

Blog de Noticias: Chile Accesible

Esta es la primera parte (de un total de 4 videos), sobre la experiencia de Fernando Lasalvia, músico, cineasta y periodista, que experimentó por varios días vivir en ‘situación de discapacidad’. Es así, como se decide a vivir una  vida independiente…  Veamos cómo le va en esta primera parte, donde conoce a Tomás del Villar, deportista, Campeón Nacional de Esquí Paralímpico.

Fuente: Sábado de Reportajes de Canal 13

 

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How would you like to save money (as much as 60%!) and even get paid for purchasing goods and services you already use?  Paid for by the advertising budgets of all of the companies involved?

These days, many people want to save as much money as possible, and are often also looking for extra income, as business in so many industries is down and life certainly isn’t getting any less expensive.  I’ve come across an amazing opportunity that I’d love for you to take a look at that I think is a complete no brainer.

Do you use a cell phone?  Watch TV?  Eat out?  Go to movies or amusement parks?  Use high speed Internet?  Travel?  Take vitamins and nutritional supplements?  Shop at physical stores like Home Depot, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Saks, Best Buy, Borders, Blockbuster (either online or physically), or online at virtual-only sites like NewEgg, Amazon.com, the Apple iTunes Store, Magazines.com, Overstock.com, all major US cell phone carriers, and even Travelocity?  What about checking out some 900 other well-known businesses – including Fortune 500 companies, major restaurant chains, hot local restaurants, and much more?  Most are brand names you already know, use, and trust.

Please check this out and let me know what you think – http://www.fhtmus.com/wendyhoechstetter.

Not only are there amazing discounts up front, but you can even be paid a percentage of whatever you and any of your loyal customers purchase!  Without changing your buying habits.

Look through all the products and see what you might use, or are already using.  Pay particular attention to the Amusement Pack and Rewards Mall, since those little buttons hide a lot behind them.  All are great, but these two have far and away the most options.  Just take a look at how amazingly much is already offered – and they’re adding new companies continually.

If prompted by some of these links for a representative ID, just enter 3529650 and you’ll be able to look around.  It won’t commit you to a thing.

And definitely click on the “Watch an FHTM Overview” button to find out how all this works and where the money comes from, whether you want to sign on as a rep or just want to purchase products for your own use.  I particularly like Todd Rowland’s presentation followed by Chris Doyle’s, as they spell out everything about how all of this works, but they’re all good.

You can either become a rep and start producing income for yourself, or just purchase products through my site that will still save you a lot of money – and purchasing them directly from the vendor in question – all of their regular products, on their own websites.

Either way, you’ll help me out in the process if you will just go through my portal to access these vendors – which I’d really appreciate ;->  It will all be  pretty much completely transparent to you – and cost you the same or less than you’re already been paying anyways for the same things.  Plus, with so many vendors under one roof, you can save a lot of time vs going to each store or website individually.

I know, I know; this sounds like an ad, and too good to be true, and you come to this blog to read about interior design-related topics.  But this company is so exciting and unlike any other that I just want to share it with everyone.  I’ve checked out this company six ways to Sunday, as has the highly credible person who introduced me to it, and am actually working with a number of my interior design colleagues.  It’s such a great way to expand your options that can allow you to do whatever it is you like to do (like pick only the design projects you want to do) just for fun, and get the monkey off your back.  The training and support provided are incredible.

This opportunity is definitely not for everyone, there’s no pressure to sign up or purchase anything – and it is definitely not a get rich quick scheme.

Some people will get it right away after watching one or two of the videos, and others won’t.  That’s just fine. I’m not going to  twist anyone’s arm.  I want to help people, and assist the ones who want to do even more to help others accomplish those goals, along with their personal ones.

Just please let me know what you think, and feel free to drop me a line if you’ve got any questions.

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Back in the Saddle

Hi, folks.  I know I’ve been kind of AWOL for a while, with life having intervened.  I’m starting to get back on top of the blogging and social media, etc. again, so look for some new posts soon!

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I just read an amazing blog post that sheds a whole lot of light on this subject.  It’s targeted at doctors, but the information contained within, and in the linked articles is extremely interesting, and explains many things that never made sense before, about why smart and successful people in all professions seem to go stupid and not learn from their mistakes.

In a nutshell, “Many professionals like doctors have been almost always successful and so they are not good at learning from failure. When their single loop learning goes wrong, they become defensive, screen out criticism and blame others but not themselves for the failure”.

Learning from failure, it turns out, requires a process dubbed “double loop learning”, which is quite different.

Check out the links below for further information.

Why Smart People Don’t Learn From Failures

Teaching Smart People How to Learn

This information explains a whole lot of things in the world in general, and about a lot of other things I’ve encountered personally…

Have you encountered this phenomenon in your own life, in others around you?  I’d be interested to know your stories.

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Recently, it came to my attention that someone else tried to post a message on the blog of another designer friend of mine – using my business name!

Fortunately, my friend noticed the discrepancy between the first name given (not my own) and the odd juxtaposition with my business name, and emailed me to find out if it was, in fact, my post before releasing it.  Needless to say, it was not – and she did not release the post.  Image how stunned I was to see the screenshot she sent me, showing clearly someone else using my business name!

What’s more, the person who attempted this turns out, in fact, to not even be a real person, but a screen name under which multiple people post on behalf of a large conglomerate chain of cheap furniture, which has racked up an impressive list of complaints, according to Google – including an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau.  We know this about this entity because my friend was told so in a direct communication from the company involved when this issue was raised with them.

Please rest assured, too, that I would never have anything to do with this company, or any other that carried goods of this apparently poor quality, or which has such a terrible reputation for customer service.  I stand for high quality goods and services, and only do business with companies and manufacturers who produce the same – and who stand behind their products in the event of a problem.

Sadly, this entity which attempted to impersonate me, which goes by the various names of “nicolette” and “Nicolette Teek”, has been posting prolifically all over pretty much every other interior design blog and related website out there, including my own, and that of my friend, Nicolette Toussaint, a design student in San Francisco who is also a prolific blogger and gifted artist and writer.  The posts are frequently not even on topic – and always contain links back to the company in question, and the blog that this so-called “Nicolette, the Design Diva” (I kid you not) writes on their behalf.

This entity also has a presence on Facebook, where it has been friended by more than 200 other people, including some very reputable interior designers.

Nicolette Toussaint (the real Nicolette) describes the issue brilliantly on her own blog, including how I was fooled into thinking this entity was actually her, in a post entitled “Of Scruples, Scams, Divas and My Evil Twin“.

Since I was confused and mistook this entity for her, despite knowing her personally, we figured others might be as well.

Which leads me to the substance of this particular post.

If someone has been trying to impersonate me like this, it’s only a matter of time before they attempt to impersonate others – including potentially some of the most popular bloggers out there – or some of the more controversial ones.

If you happen to come across anyone using my own name or business name, and you’ve got any question as to whether or not I actually posted the comment in question, please let me know, including links, screenshots, etc.

Please be aware that impersonations such as this are pretty easy to do in cyberspace, so here are some tips to help you protect yourself, and others.

1.  Make sure to Google your own name, business name, blog name, etc. on a regular and frequent basis, to ensure that only posts that you make are actually being attributed to you.

2.  If you own a blog, try to verify that the name and business names and links given by people who post comments in response to your posts match.  You won’t know everyone, but many major blog platforms give you the IP address from which a post originates, and you can certainly at least check any links posted in the body of the comment.  If the names don’t match – be aware that you’ve got spam.

3.  If the IP address is shown, you can look it up on sites such as Whois to determine who actually owns it, and can often tell if the site is legitimate or not.  In the case of the entity who attempted to impersonate me, the IP address resolves to a communications company, showing that it is an anonymous registration – in Canada.  Discrepancies such as this alone, when you know that the alleged poster lives and works in the US, ought to be a tipoff that something’s wrong.  Most legitimate businesses will also not register their sites anonymously like this, either, as they want people to be able to find them.

4.  Be careful who you give access to your personal information to.  When you friend someone on Facebook, or connect with them on a variety of other social media sites, including LinkedIn, you open the door to scammers of all stripes and offer them access to all of the personal information about you that you may have posted there.  In short, know who you are connecting with before doing so, and be judicious about who you share such information with.

5.  On Facebook, you might also want to protect your profile so that only people in your own immediate friends list can see your personal information.  To do this, go to “Settings” in the upper right hand corner of your homepage screen, then select “Privacy Settings”, then make the appropriate changes.  While you’re at it, tell Facebook not to allow others to use you or your information in other people’s ads.  None of this will help protect you if you’ve allowed spammers access to your profile, though, which is why you need to be careful who you let into these networks.

6.  Be careful who you allow to post links on your sites in comments.  Check the urls (by entering them manually, not clicking on links), particularly if they sound at all suspicious.  If you like the post, but have reservations about the site being linked to, and would not want your name to be associated with that company, or its products or services, you can delete those links before you authorize the post.  If they really sound suspicious, don’t even look at the urls, so as to avoid getting hit with viruses and spyware.

7.  If you’re a blogger, beware of posting pingbacks to what are known as “link farms”.  These are those sites you’ve seen who seem to accumulate a wide variety of posts on all kinds of different topics, yet have no content of their own, and no information about the author of the blog.  Sometimes they relate mostly to a particular subject matter, but even so, these are always spam sites – and Google will penalize you if you link back to them.

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